Asked by a journalist during the in-flight press conference home from Morocco about the potential consequences of his visit “for the future, for world peace, for coexistence in the dialogue between cultures,” Pope Francis responded:
I will say that now there are flowers, the fruits will come later, but the flowers are promising. I am happy because in these two journeys I have been able to talk much about what is in my heart — peace, unity, fraternity. With Muslim brothers and sisters, we sealed this fraternity in the Abu Dhabi document, and here in Morocco, with this we have all seen a freedom, a welcome, all brothers with such great respect, and this beautiful flower of coexistence, a beautiful flower that is promising to bear fruit.
The “fraternity” that was “sealed” in the Abu Dhabi statement was based, in part, on the assertion — signed jointly by the pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb — that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”
This phrasing, pregnant with the obvious implication that God actually wanted false religions to arise upon the Earth, leading men astray from the true path offered only by Christ, raised more than a few eyebrows, not least of which were perched on the forehead of Bishop Athanasius Schneider. The outspokenly orthodoxy auxiliary bishop of Astana, Khazakstan attempted to wrestle a correction out of the pope during the ad limina visit of the bishops of his country to the Holy See last month.
The pope made a concession that Bishop Schneider could say “that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God” — as though he had intended to say that all these things God positively willed, except the one he was called out on, and that one the Good Lord merely put up with, tolerant fellow that He is. Bishop Schneider pressed the pope to make a correction in an official statement, but he deflected, and so the good bishop escalated the need for correction in his own recently published analysis of how the Church might handle a heretical pope. Of the problematic phrase in the Abu Dhabi statement, Bishop Schneider wrote, “This formulation as such needs an official Papal correction, otherwise it evidently will contradict the First Commandment of the Decalogue and the unmistakable and explicit teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, hence contradicting Divine Revelation.”
The pope, meanwhile, requested the “widest possible dissemination” of his uncorrected statement at Catholic universities. Not a public peep about the distinction he granted, evidently as a manifestation of The Perón Rule.
The renowned German Catholic philosopher, Professor Josef Seifert, reacted strongly to the initiative of the pope to distribute the statement, saying it would be the “unprecedented heresy of all heresies” to “spread this unaltered declaration” that the diverse religions are willed by God “without the slightest (and, what is more, unconvincing) declaration that it is merely about the permissive will of God.”
According to Seifert, a private remark (as given in the presence of Bishop Schneider) is not sufficient to rescind “the approval of all heresies and of all those religions which are in contradiction with Christianity as it is to be found in the Abu Dhabi declaration.”
Seifert said the statement read at face value places the pope “outside the Church and of the Christian Faith in general, as well as outside of reason.”
For, how could God will contradictions to those most important revealed truths which are simultaneously also willed by Him? This assumption would make God either a lunatic who violates the foundation of all reason — the principle of non-contradiction — and who is a monumental relativist, or a confused God who is indifferent to the matter of whether people witness to the truth or not.
But Francis wasn’t finished.
During his visit to Morocco, he is reported to have said “trying to convert people to one’s own belief ‘always leads to an impasse,’” followed by another of his appeals not to “proselytize.”
Don’t tell that to the saints who analyzed Islam as “an impious, blasphemous, vicious cult” and “an invention of the devil” or the many martyrs — like St. Pelagius of Cordoba — who died refusing to submit to its unwholesome demands. They had some potent thoughts of their own about what is, at best, as St. John Damascene called the religion of Mohammed, a “heresy” that constitutes a “forerunner of the Antichrist.”
In other words: Islam is a false ideology and a path to perdition, and the conversion of its adherents, if we care about their souls, is desirable. It is certainly desired by God, who created men to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life and be happy with Him forever in Heaven. As my friend Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute relates, when St. Francis of Assisi, not having received the memo against proselytism, attempted to convert the sultan of Egypt, he made the stakes clear: “If you do not wish to believe we will commend your soul to God because we declare that if you die while holding to your law you will be lost; God will not accept your soul. For this reason we have come to you.”
But for Francis, who disparaged Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address as destructive, has offered a false equivalency between the known epidemic of Islamic violence and some unspecified “Catholic violence,” and who encouraged Muslim refugees to look to the Quran and the “faith that your parents instilled in you” to help them, it seems that the idea of actually holding a critical thought about Islam — let alone desiring the conversion of Muslims to Catholicism — is unthinkable.
This is not what Muslim converts want to hear from their pope.
Last year, a group of Catholics who had converted from Islam — many no doubt at great personal risk — made an impassioned plea to the pope in the form of an open letter. They claimed that many of their number had tried to contact the pope, “on many occasions and for several years, and we have never received the slightest acknowledgement of our letters or requests for meetings.”
After making clear with quotes from both Scripture and the Quran that Islam is “a proper antichrist” and “wants us to be its enemy,” they ask, “the Pope seems to propose the Quran as a way of salvation, is that not cause for worry? Should we return to Islam?”
“We beg you,” they continue, “not to seek in Islam an ally in your fight against the powers that want to dominate and enslave the world, since they share the same totalitarian logic based on the rejection of the kingship of Christ (Lk 4.7).”
They lay bare the scandal of this failure of the Church to recognize what its overtures to Islam are causing:
The pro-Islam speech of Your Holiness leads us to deplore the fact that Muslims are not invited to leave Islam, and that many ex-Muslims, such as Magdi Allam, are even leaving the Church, disgusted by her cowardice, wounded by equivocal gestures, confused by the lack of evangelization, scandalized by the praise given to Islam[.] … Thus ignorant souls are misled, and Christians are not preparing for a confrontation with Islam, to which St. John Paul II has called them (Ecclesia in Europa, No. 57).
There is no indication that they ever received a response. But if they can see the truth of it, we can too, whether the pope cares to acknowledge reality or continue with his dialogue delusion.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.